Monday, July 14, 2014

Ariel: The Shimmering Star Necklace by Gail Herman

Title: Ariel: The Shimmering Star Necklace
Author: Gail Herman
Genre: Mystery, Fantasy
Reading Level: Ages 6 to 8

In Ariel: The Shimmering Star Necklace, Princess Ariel is helping a girl named Laurel practice for a concert. When Ariel shows up for their last rehersal on the day of the concert, she discovers that Laurel is missing. Ariel follows various leads and clues to ultimately get Laurel back in time for the concert.

Those that enjoy Ariel's adventures in the ocean will particular like that there are undersea parts in the book. There are also appearances by other characters from The Little Mermaid including a humorous exchange between Ariel and Scuttle.

Overall this is a simple chapter book, but it can still be a fulfilling read with it taking some effort for Ariel to discover what happened to Laurel. The book contains detailed colorful illustrations that not only help can make the book more appealing to reluctant readers, but also are part of the story, such as signs for the concert.

Types of Readers Book Might Appeal To & Multiple Intelligence Categories
  • Fans of The Little Mermaid
  • Those interested in music, especially singing, may relate to the concert aspect of the story. (Musical)
  • Those that enjoy mysteries may be drawn in by the search for Laurel. (Logical-Mathematical)
  • Visual learners may enjoyed the detailed illustrations and how at points they are part of the plot. (Spatial-Visual)
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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Pirate Campout by Bill Scollon

Title: Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Pirate Campout
Author: Bill Scollon
Genre: Picture Book, Fantasy
Reading Level: Ages 3 to 5

In Pirate Campout, Jake and the Never Land Pirates go on a hiking and camping trip to Doubloon Lagoon.  Captain Hook and his crew join the trip thinking that there is gold there because it is named Doubloon.

As a World of Reading Level 1 reader, this book features simple text and word repetition.  Usually the Disney World of Reading books do this and create a cohesive plot, but in Pirate Campout the plot to some extent oversimplified to the point the flow of the story seems rather disjointed at points.

Overall Pirate Campout can be a good choice for early readers interested in hiking, camping, and/or outdoor adventures.  While the plot has some flow issues, it still a mostly complete plot and a good fit for those familiar with the episode.  The book also has the corner text commonly in Jake and the Never Land Pirates books, which adds jokes and encourages looking closer at the illustrations to answer questions.

Types of Readers Book Might Appeal To & Multiple Intelligence Categories
  • Fans of Jake and the Never Land Pirates
  • Those interested in outdoor activities like camping and hiking. (Naturalistic)
  • The illustrations along with the corner text that encourage looking closer can help engage visual learners. (Spatial-Visual)
  • The scenes where they set up a tent and save Captain Hook provide examples of teamwork. (Interpersonal)
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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Across A War-Tossed Sea by L. M. Elliott

Title: Across A War-Tossed Sea
Author: L. M. Elliott
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reading Level: Ages 10 to 14
Multicultural: Characters include British boys, white Americans, African Americans, a Native American, and German POWs
Curriculum Subject: History

Across a War-Tossed Sea is a historical fiction novel mostly set in rural Virginia during World War II (September 1943 to May 1944).  With main characters including an African American boy, five American siblings, and two British siblings, the book provides an interesting perspective on the time period and what it was like for both American and British children during the war even if the characters are perhaps very stereotypically portrayed.

The main characters are brothers Charles (14) and Wesley (10), who are sent from London to live in rural Virginia with the family of a man their father saved in World War I. Most of the book is about day to day life including working on the farm and going to school, but the plot is also filled with references to the war and the war effort.  This includes the children helping salvage items to be used for things the troops needed, listening to radio reports from Edward Murrow and on D-Day, and hiring German POWs helping to help with farm work.

Beyond just providing a look at life in America during the war, the book also provides some perspective on the differences between British and American culture. This includes Charles finding it odd how football is not the same sport and considering it a less intense version of rugby. He also questions whether the British were really as bad as the Americans say when he learns about the American Revolution in school and is surprised that the British and Americans are now friends after learning what his country did to D.C. during the War of 1812.

Across a War-Tossed Sea also touches on what life was like for African-American and to a very small extent the Native Americans in this time period.  Wesley ends up becoming friends with a neighbor who is African American. While his host family mostly freely associates with them, he discovers the realities of segregation when he goes with his friend to see the launching of the USS Ticonderoga. The book also discusses how the African Americans were given new opportunities during the war, such as helping build the ships.

Probably the most interesting and unique perspective brought into the story, though, is that of the German POWs. They are brought into the story when the family has to hire them in order to get all the farm work done. This aspect of the story includes a German POW saving one of the kids as well as the kids later saving him, which helps them realize that they have similar war experiences and that they need to not fight for revenge, but for peace.

Across a War-Tossed Sea is an great read that can help provide a deeper understanding of life during World War II.  It may not have much of the tension and action that a war period novel set in Europe or the Pacific, but it does show how the war did touch American soil and the war efforts at home to equip the troops.

Types of Readers Book Might Appeal To & Multiple Intelligence Categories
  • Those interested in history and historical fiction, especially if they are interested in World War II history.
  • Those that have immigrated from another country or even from another region may relate to how Charles and Wesley feelings of homesickness and how they find living on a Virginia farm different from their British upbringing in London.
  • Several scenes provide examples of learning to get along and working together, especially in how Ron and Wesley eventually become friends and the different ways people helped the war effort. (Interpersonal)
  • The book also provides insight into understanding inner feelings and intentions, especially in the portrayal of Charles and the German POW. (Intrapersonal)
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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Midnight Ride: A Gates Family Mystery by Catherine Hapka

Title: Midnight Ride
Series: National Treasure - A Gates Family Mystery
Author: Catherine Hapka
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reading Level: 12 and up
Curriculum Subjects: History

The Midnight Ride book in the Gates Family Mystery series is set during the year and a half leading up to the beginning of the American Revolution at Lexington and Concord in 1775. In this book, John Raleigh Gates is a post rider that gets involved in the Patriot cause leading to a treasure hunt to find something that will help the Patriots triumph.

Throughout Midnight Ride, there are references to events of the time period, such as the Destruction of the Tea (i.e. Boston Tea Party), Quartering Act, and the Battle of Concord.  There are also many historical references used in the many clues that John and his two friends solve to eventually locate the treasure.  There are also references to a variety of places (mostly in Massachusetts, especially Boston) as the hunt takes them to multiple cities/locations.  As part of their quest, they also meet with famous Patriots such as Paul Revere and Samuel Adams.

Overall Midnight Ride is an interesting historical fiction adventure book.  It can be a good tie in with studying the American Revolution.  The book also provides some perspective on what life was like during that period of American history, especially on traveling by horse, the role of post riders, and the tension between Loyalists and Patriots.

Types of Readers Book Might Appeal To & Multiple Intelligence Categories
  • Fans of the National Treasure movies
  • Those interested in history, especially American history and the American Revolution.
  • Mystery lovers and those that enjoy working out puzzles, riddles, and clues. (Logical-Mathematical)
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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Planes: Fire & Rescue (Little Golden Book)

Title: Planes: Fire & Rescue (Little Golden Book)
Genre: Picture Book, Fiction
Reading Level: Ages 2 to 5

This is a classic Little Golden Book version of the Disney Planes: Fire & Rescue movie plot.  While this is somewhat a sequel to the Planes movie, the plot stands on it's own including at least in the book there being pretty much no mentions of the characters from the previous movie other than Dusty.  Thus, those that like other characters from the movie may be disappointed to not see their favorites in this book.

In Planes: Fire & Rescue, Dusty goes to Piston Peak National Park to train to become a firefighter in order for his home airport to reopen.  The book features different aspects of his training as well as Dusty being a hero as part of putting out a wildfire and saving tourists.

Overall it is a well-written and illustrated book with a simple while still adequately complete plot for reading to the target age group.

Types of Readers Book Might Appeal To & Multiple Intelligence Categories
  • Fans of Planes, especially if they like Dusty
  • Visual learners may be drawn in by not just the illustrations, but the variations in text that highlights select words in the story. (Spatial-Visual)
  • The national park setting and wildfire aspects may appeal to those interested in nature and protecting it. (Naturalistic)
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